Black women display leadership during presidential forum attack
A screengrab from a MoveOn video feed shows the moment that Karine Jean-Pierre blocked a protester from reaching Sen. Kamala Harris. | via MoveOn

A white male protester grabbed the microphone from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., after he jumped onto the stage last Saturday during a presidential candidates’ forum sponsored by MoveOn.

Harris was in the middle of remarks about student loans for black students when the animal rights activist lunged toward her and grabbed her mic.

In an act of selfless bravery, Karine Jean-Pierre, an African-American woman and chief public affairs officer for MoveOn, jumped from her seat near Harris and threw her body in between the attacker and Harris. She blocked him until security could come on stage and take over.

Harris, who left the stage to clear the way for MoveOn staff to remove the usurper, came right back on to continue her talk. The audience cheered, clapped, and shouted her name.

The event says so much about our society at a time when attacks on people of color, and women specifically, are being fostered from the White House on down.

Jean-Pierre’s instantaneous reaction was beautiful. “Not here, not now, how dare you!” her actions stated as she put her body in between the usurper and Harris. It was one woman of color protecting another woman of color but it was also one woman of color showing all of us what it takes when we are confronted by people who want to take away our rights.

Jean-Pierre took bold action not knowing what the full potential of the attack was or whether she would suffer injury or worse. She only knew that she would not stand for such abuse and such an attack, not on her watch. She was acting for herself, for all women of color, for all women, and for all people who are confronted daily by those who would take away their rights.

Harris, too, showed exemplary behavior. She was unshaken, showed no fear, and got right back on with her talk. She reportedly called Jean-Pierre the next day to see how she was doing. Brave, unafraid, compassionate, and loving human beings—both of them.

What a contrast to the thoughtless and mindless white male who jumped up on the stage thinking it was OK to make a point about animal rights by shoving around black women who were talking about human rights. What a contrast to the people running our country today!

This is not a political endorsement for any candidate. But the incident, for me, shows in the clearest terms possible the leading role women of color are playing in our society every single day. It serves all of us well to recognize this and to follow their example as best we can.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.